I have read hundreds of stories about ICANN voting to allow the creation of an unlimited amount of domain extensions in the mainstream media. Each and everyone of these article talks about an adult extension .xxx/.sex or some other version as a foregone conclusion in terms of popularity among users and applicants.
The question is how can ICANN approve an adult extension now having turned down .xxx three times already?
On March 30, 2007, just over a year ago, ICANN rejected the .xxx extension for the third time on a 9-5 vote.
According to USA today, “”Nearly all of the board members who voted against approving the domain said they were concerned about the possibility that ICANN could find itself in the content regulation business if the domain name was approved.””
Paul Twomey, ICANN’S chief executive, said the decision came down to a number of factors, one of which was whether by creating an “xxx” domain, ICANN might be put in a position of having to enforce all of the world’s laws governing pornography.
According to cnet.com, ICANN in rejecting the .xxx proposal said that the extension “could raise significant compliance issues with law enforcement agencies around the globe, many of which have different laws governing pornography.”
Also ICANN cited the fact that the adult website community was opposed to the extension, as they feared that an .xxx TLD would result in governments restricting access to all sites in the domain, leading to a drop in traffic and revenues.
“There are credible scenarios that lead to circumstances in which ICANN would be forced to assume an ongoing management and oversight role regarding Internet content, which is inconsistent with its technical mandate” ICANN said at the time.
And that time was just a little over a year ago.
Let’s not forget that the .xxx extension also drew opposition from the US Government, the American Civil Liberties Union, and many conservative religious groups.
So what has fundamentally changed, other than dollars, that would allow ICANN to now approve these extensions now??
Or maybe it is simply the dollars.
According to reports the application fees will range between 100K-500K per.
ICANN stated last week that its costs for the creating the infrastructure for the new extensions will be between $20-$30 million and these application fees would help them recoup that cost.
We know 2 things for certain that:
1. Application fees will be non-refundable.
2. If more than one application is received for a domain extension, the extension will be auctioned off and awarded to the high bidder.
Lets say 5 company’s apply for .sex, another 5 for .xxx, another 5 for .porn and another 5 for .adult or some other like extension.
Let’s say the application fee is set half way between the estimates at $250K per.
That’s 20 applications at $250K or 5 million dollars right there.
But wait, for each extension there will be an auction. Going in, each applicant has to know that it will take an amount into the seven figures to win one of these extensions.
Now ICANN is over 10 million and that’s just for the adult extensions.
Whose to say that ICANN will only approve one adult extension?
Why won’t they approve .xxx, .sex, .porn and .adult if there are multiple applicants for each of those extensions?
On the other hand maybe they won’t approve any.
Maybe nothing has fundamentally changed since last year that would allow an adult extension to be added.
When asked about the possibility of a .xxx domain name, this week Paul Twomey said simply that the new system would be “open to anyone”.
However note that under this system an “independent arbitration panel” could reject extensions based on “morality or public order” grounds.
So what if all the extensions are rejected by this yet to be formed or named “independent arbitration panel”.
What if the US government, which is currently against an adult extension, continues to be against it?
What if religious groups continue to voice outrage over an adult extension?
What if adult website operators who were largely against the .xxx application, continue to speak out against it?
If ICANN collects the application fees but the “independent arbitration panel” rejects them, that is not ICANN fault, right?
If applicants want to reapply the following year and pay the application fees again, well that could mean another 5 million into ICANN coffers, with the extension still being awarded on an auction basis.
Unless its turned down again.
This can be a real cash cow for ICANN. They keep collecting application fees and have no blame or responsibility, when the extensions are rejected by the panel.
Finally, what happens to all of ICANN statements last year about not wanting to regulate content, not being able to do so on a worldwide basis and all the other reasons they had last year in rejecting .xxx.
Have any of these issues been suddenly resolved? Are the problem and questions still not valid?
Maybe an adult extension will not be the first to be awarded but the last.